The mammalian facial muscles are a subgroup of hyoid muscles (i.e. muscles innervated by cranial nerve VII). They are usually attached to freely movable skin and are responsible for facial expressions. In this study we provide an account of the origin, homologies and evolution of the primate facial muscles, based on dissections of various primate and non-primate taxa and a review of the literature. We provide data not previously reported, including photographs showing in detail the facial muscles of primates such as gibbons and orangutans. We show that the facial muscles usually present in strepsirhines are basically the same muscles that are present in non-primate mammals such as tree-shrews. The exceptions are that strepsirhines often have a muscle that is usually not differentiated in tree-shrews, the depressor supercilii, and lack two muscles that are usually differentiated in these mammals, the zygomatico-orbicularis and sphincter colli superficialis. Monkeys such as macaques usually lack two muscles that are often present in strepsirhines, the sphincter colli profundus and mandibulo-auricularis, but have some muscles that are usually absent as distinct structures in non-anthropoid primates, e.g. the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi, levator labii superioris, nasalis, depressor septi nasi, depressor anguli oris and depressor labii inferioris. In turn, macaques typically lack a risorius, auricularis anterior and temporoparietalis, which are found in hominoids such as humans, but have muscles that are usually not differentiated in members of some hominoid taxa, e.g. the platysma cervicale (usually not differentiated in orangutans, panins and humans) and auricularis posterior (usually not differentiated in orangutans). Based on our observations, comparisons and review of the literature, we propose a unifying, coherent nomenclature for the facial muscles of the Mammalia as a whole and provide a list of more than 300 synonyms that have been used in the literature to designate the facial muscles of primates and other mammals. A main advantage of this nomenclature is that it combines, and thus creates a bridge between, those names used by human anatomists and the names often employed in the literature dealing with non-human primates and non-primate mammals.